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Day 6 Blog every day in June 2012

City of Fremantle received the Library Board Award for Excellence for their Outdoor Reading Room project.  Here is a little information about this winning project. 

Following a community place making workshop focused on King's Square, a public open space adjacent to the Fremantle City Library which had become known over years for anti social behaviour, rather than as the civic square for the City of Fremantle, it was agreed to create an outdoor reading room over the summer months. As well as enlivening and creating positive activity in the Square, the project aimed to promote the library and provide a launch for 2012 National Year of Reading.

The Outdoor Reading Room commenced with two large trolleys of adult and children's books, magazines and newspapers; tables and chairs for both adults and children and an A frame sign. Reading material comprised better quality items that would normally go into the library's book sale. Donations from Fremantle Press and the West Australian supplemented this stock. Staff were only involved in set up and dismantling each day, the room is based on building trust in the community, something that has proven to be well placed.

The outdoor reading room provided the venue for further library activities, including the library’s quarterly book sale, author talks, children’s story time and a poet’s breakfast. Several mothers, walking through the square and seeing the story time, have since joined the library and now regularly attend story times and borrow books for their children. Library staff received a number of enquiries from people wanting to borrow the book they have started to read, and in several instances were able to join the people to the library and lend them a library copy of the title to continue their reading.  Free wifi service complemented the service and led to usage from computer users.
Head counts at various times each day, showed consistent and regular usage by community members who extended the area by spreading out onto the adjacent grassy areas when the tables were fully used.
Comments by users on evaluation forms were very positive:
“Whetted my appetite to start borrowing from library again”
“Lovely atmosphere, provides a social hub – meet more locals and having playground next to the reading is fantastic for families”
“Fantastic, please stay here!”
“Nice to see the Square being used for something that benefits people. See less anti-social behavior because of the reading room”
“I think this is a lovely idea and you should be commended for having it”
“A lovely way to spend the lunch hour – thank you”

The reading room was due to close at the end of March, but was extended to the end of April due to popular demand, and the positive impact on community behaviour and usage levels in King's Square.

The Outdoor Reading Room has:
·         Built trust in the community - unstaffed library service
·         Blurred the boundary between the physical library and community space
·         Increased the physical capacity of a small library by moving into an outdoor space
·         Introduced the library, its activities, resources and services to wider community
·         Sponsorship by local business a tangible demonstration of community support for the library service
·         Evidence indicates the positive flow-on effect to library usage
·         Created a sense of fun with the colourful furniture
·         Brought a sense of novelty to King's Square
·         Improved sense of safety in the square and reduced anti-sociable behaviors
·         Created a positive activity for the whole community

Plans are in place to repeat the Outdoor Reading Room each spring/summer following community response this year. Collaboration with other groups, including a local publisher, the West Australian, the community market introduced to King's Square in February, local schools and event providers has enhanced the service provided at this venue and helped establish the Outdoor Reading Room as a recognised part of the Fremantle community.

The broad aims of positive place making and reading encouragement have clearly been met in this project which has also met goals set within the project plan, creating a comfortable place for people to relax and enjoy reading, breaking down physical and regulatory barriers to library use, and raising the profile of Fremantle City Library and its role in reading, literacy and creating an informed community.

Julie Caddy
City of Fremantle Library

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